Athens Acropolis & more (Attica - Greece)

Honestly - my heart was pounding as I stood there. Its a decade old dream to see this place with my own eyes, to be present there and feel it, ever since my first ever Art History classes in University. Acropolis opens its doors to the visitors at 8:00AM and we were there by about 8:15AM. We had already purchased the tickets online, so we headed directly to the barcode scanner entrance and headed straight to the Parthenon. I wanted to get there before the place gets flocked with humans and it worked. We got the place to almost ourselves (and about 50 other people) for about half an hour by then, when the crowd started pouring in.The Parthenon, built in 447 BCE is supposed to an enclosed temple with a huge sculpture of Athena. However this sculpture was lost in Byzantine Era. Close to the Parthenon is the Erecthion which is a temple whose pillars are sculpted like a maiden. The ones here are copies and the originals are in the Acropolis Museum. Other structures include the entrance Propylia, Hourglass with fountain, temple of Athena victory etc, all built about 500-400 BCE. The view from atop here was spectacular with a birdeye view of Ancient Theatre of Dionysos, Odeion of Herodes Atticus etc. The Stoa of Eumenes between them, serves as an open air sculpture museum today. We did not climb the Philopappus Hill as we were told it wouldn't be suitable to go with a baby. However we did catch a glimpse of Philopappus Monument built in 2nd C CE from atop Parthenon.After seeing the Acropolis, our next stop was the Hadrian's Arch & Olympieion. The Olympieion feels more massive than Parthenon, because it stands solo in the midst of greenery in the plains unlike Parthenon which is surrounded by other huge structures. This was begun to be built in 515 BCE, only to be abandoned, twice by 2 different emperors and was completed only in 131 CE by Emperor Hadrian. Just like the sculpture of Athena in Parthenon, this one had a ivory and gold sculpture of Zeus which is missing, just like Athena! Unlike Acropolis, the colomns here are Corinthian making it a visual delight!Just behind is the Ilissos valley, or what's left of it. Most people miss it. Take a moment to have a look at it, esp., if you're not visiting Delphi or Epidaurus. The entrance to the Olympieion is through the Hadrian's Arch also built it 131 CE. This served as a gateway to the city and says 'This is Athens, the City of Theseus' on one side and 'This is the city of Hadrian, not Theseus' on the other.One of the must visit when in Athens is the Acropolis Museum and the Archaeological Museum. Unfortunately we had time only for Acropolis Museum. As I mentioned earlier, this has the originals of the Erechthion women, recreated & painted Kore, hundreds of vases and so much more. I was internally jumping with joy to see the examples that I studied in Art History classes!!!!!Remember in my earlier post on Church of St.George on Lycabettus Hill, I had mentioned that, both Greeks & Indians have the devotional practice of offering small silver slates with embossed print of a body part to be healed or other wishes to be fulfilled! Guess what? The practice has been in existence since Ancient Greece and originally it was made of stone!!!Our next stop was Ancient Agora. This was originally a very active commercial centre.  This by itself is a huge complex like Acropolis. The first stop in here was the Thission - Temple of Hephaistos, which is a smaller version of Parthenon, built in 460 BCE. This is located at a slight elevation than the rest of the Agora and requires a very slight hike atop. On the way is the square with huge sculptures of men working out, aptly named The monument of the Eponymous Heroes, and this originally served as a gymnasium. This too has its own circular Tholos (like Epidaurus), but in ruins. Within this site is also a Byzantine Church called Church of the Holy Apostles built in 1000 CE. However this was closed when I went. One of the most important monuments in this site is The Stoa of Attalus, a 2 storey building which once served a buzzing commercial site, now serves as the site museum. Don't miss the perfume bottle in the shape of a kneeling athlete, in this museum!We proceeded to Hadrian's Library. As the name suggests it was once the library that held several books & papyruses, built in 132 CE. The Corinthian columns are here too, like Olympieion.Our final stop was Roman Agora. This too is a complex with multiple monuments and the most important one of it all is the Kyrristus Clock. Don't miss the tiny spot of fresco that's still in there in the ceiling. I can't imagine how it would have looked with all colors!On another day while returning from Peloponnese, we did stop by at Panathenaic Stadium, which is the ancient Olympic Stadium with a capacity of 60000 spectators, completely made of marble!Finally after some rest, I decided to head towards the Byzantine and Ottomon monuments. Unfortunately almost all the Byzantine churches in the central region were all closed in the afternoon. After seeing the shut doors of almost 4-5 churches, I gave up and headed to the Ottomon monuments.Ottomons ruled Athens from 1456-1833, so obviously quite a major influence of their art & architecture. The first spot I saw was Madrasah. It was built in 1721 and was destroyed during WWI. All that's left now for us to see is this Gate! The next site was Hamam (Turkish Baths). Today it is the Museum of Cleanliness and Body Embellishment which basically is the bath itself, preserved as a museum. Its a simple, small place that explains how Hamams originally functioned. From here, as I walked towards Acropolis, it was only by chance that I spotted that Church Agios Spyridon was open! I went in and it was a treat of 12th C frescoes staring at me!I went by the official guide book (link below) and saw as much as possible of the Antiquities, Byzantine & Ottomon monuments. I shuffled things a bit, so as to put Parthenon as the 1st site. However I did end up missing Kerameikos and Aristotle's School. Btw, we stayed at an Airbnb in Athens near Acropolis, and all these sites were walkable from this place and the best part - it has a view of Parthenon from the terrace! How cool is that? You could get €28 off at your next stay in Airbnb House, if you sign up with my code - Airbnb Coupon Code!Here's a tip: Most of these sites are NOT wheelchair or stroller friendly! Athens Guide Book (opens/downloads as PDF)Entry Tickets & Timings:Official site to buy tickets online - Combined Ticket: €30 (valid for 5 days from first use)Individual prices: varies from €4 - €20 to different sites (half of this price in Nov-Mar)Timings: 8:00AM to 8:00PM To Get There:For local transport, can use Athena Card (plastic & non-personalized like London Oyster; can be bought at counters) / Athena Ticket (cardboard; can be bought at machines).€9 for 5 day unlimited (excl. airport transport) €22 for 3 day unlimited (incl. airport transport)My complete - Peloponnese Travelogue: Day trip to Peloponnese, Mycenae & Tiryns, EpidaurusAttica Travelogue: Athens, Daphni MonasteryCentral Mainland Travelogue: Delphi, Hosios Loukas Monastery

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